For those of you who stumbled into the mess that was the USA-Costa Rica World Cup qualifier, let me assure you that the sport of soccer still lives, in something like its intended form. Elsewhere, on other TV channels on Friday, there were real games to be watched.
In particular, there were several South American World Cup qualifiers featuring green grass, with recognizable lines on it, a ball that could be distinguished from its background, and plenty of players who knew what to do with it.
Nice stuff from Argentina in its 3-0 win over Venezuela.Lionel Messi in action, not quite the spectacular Messi of Barcelona, but very much involved in Argentina’s goals. Also the recipient of plenty of rough tackling and body-blocking from Venezuelan defenders. But there were two delicious assists to savor -- Gonzalo Higuainturned both of them into goals (though he was offside on the second) with perfect finishing touches. Messi scored himself from the penalty spot, it all looked pretty straightforward for Argentina. But it will have to face tougher opponents than Venezuela.
Colombia slammed five goals past Bolivia for which it was the same old story -- neat soccer, but no goals and a heavy loss. No problem scoring for Colombia -- five splendid goals from five different players. And another offside goal here -- the crucial first goal, from Macnelly Torres, on which Juan Cuadrado was so clearly offside. But this was Colombia playing at home in Baranquilla, so maybe -- just like Argentina in Buenos Aires -- a few calls like that are to be expected.
Later, Colombia’s coach Jose Pekerman (an Argentine) remarked that it was sometimes hard for his team “to keep up the rhythm,” an interesting comment, for one always suspects a fatal fragility to surface in this dynamic Colombian team whenever its high speed play seems to outstrip the players’ ability.
Uruguay and Paraguay, traditionally the two most defensively conscious South American teams gave us what was to be expected -- a 0-0 tie for 80 minutes -- though it was 80 minutes with plenty of activity and chances. Then Luis Suarez struck a sweet volley for Uruguay for a lead that lasted all of four minutes before Paraguay’s Edgar Benitez pounced on a loose ball in the Uruguayan defense (a rarity, that) and tied it up. A game with a twist in its tail then, though for me it ended with a shock when the standings flashed on the TV screen -- and there was Paraguay, dead last. Just a couple of years back, Paraguay, playing excellent soccer, was a quarterfinalist at the South Africa World Cup.
Late dramatics, too, in Lima, with an 88th-minute goal for Peru from Jefferson Farfan, who did it all himself. His first, unconvincing, shot was stopped by Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo -- stopped but not held. The ball bobbled loose and Farfan reacted quickest, spinning around to get off a shot -- and this one was totally convincing, hard and straight into the net from six yards.
Closer to home, and later at night, you could have watched Jamaica taking on Panama. An early (23rd minute) lead for Jamaica came from an absolutely text-book classic corner kick play: over came the ball from Demar Phillips, and there was the big defender Marvin Elliott, sent forward to do just this -- to jump higher than everyone else and to neatly nod the ball home from the edge of the six-yard box. Panamanian goalkeeper Luis Mejiabarely moved as the ball sailed into the net. Truth be told, Mejia had little to do in this game anyway, and it was fitting that Panama tied the score some 40 minutes later with a low, long-range, left-footed shot from Luis Henriquez.
I’ll admit to missing the Honduras-Mexico game -- this was one I especially wanted to watch, but something went wrong with my meticulous taping arrangements.
Finally, then to Denver and the blizzard and a game that should never have been started, never mind played for a full treacherous 90 minutes. So, just a few words on that encounter. Here they are:
Embarrassing. Shameful. Fraudulent. Ridiculous. Scandalous. Pathetic. Dangerous. Absurd. Outrageous. Forgettable. Brutal. Insulting. Degrading. Ludicrous. Disgraceful. Pitiful. Unwatchable. Laughable. Dishonorable. Preposterous. Senseless. Farcical. Abject. Unbelievable. Horrendous. Regrettable. Dumb. Dreadful. Spurious. Grotesque. Catastrophic. Reprehensible. Woeful. Distasteful. Ugly. Demeaning. Monstrous. Derisory. Painful. Comical. Puerile. Shocking. Unbearable.
And no, I did not think much of this prank, this snow fight. Everyone involved in allowing this travesty to go ahead should be thoroughly ashamed. Starting with referee Joel Aguilar who, in theory at any rate, had the final say.